A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

To Market To Market To... Pisa!

sunny 23 °C

Yesterday the ladies and I got up and ready and set out towards a market in Florence. The streets here are really narrow, like all one way streets, and a horse carridge had just ridden past us. I looked down the road and there was a massive pile of horse poo right in the middle of the street. As we headed towards it down the street, we watched all of the cars and motorbikes swerve to avoid it. Just as we were walking past it, a stupid truck decides to put his tires RIGHT THROUGH IT. We here's 3 screechy Canadians pressed flat to the shop walls, covering our hair with our hands and screaming, hoping we wouldn't get splattered by the horse shit. Luckily we didn't, but we sure checked ourselves out after, as it was all over the sidewalk just a few feet away from us. A british lady just kept walking and laughed at us, which wasn't very nice! Anyways, we're PRETTY sure we avoided it, but just by a hair!

Once we found the market it was massive, going down all different streets. We all oogled over glass jewelry, scarves, more jewelry, and I cringed past all the leather. One leather vender shouted out, "Ciao bella! I have a beautiful coat for you and one for your mother," and I was like, "Uh, no thanks." And he said, "What, you don't like leather? Why?" And the activist in me said back, "Because leather is dead skin!" And he was like, "Oh, are you vegetarian?" and after I said yes and as I was walking away he said, "Hey, the cows were vegetarians too!" I'm like nice move buddy. But the market was really fun, and huge. We then found an indoor food market, full of meat, cheese, oil, wine, and veggies. Mom was gagging at the meat, but we tried some really good tapenade, and bought some delicious unripe black olives. They're still green but they taste like black olives they're sooo yummy.

After all the shopping we did, we dropped our stuff off at the hostel and headed out to catch the train to Pisa to check out the leaning tower. It was a gorgeous day, so I knew the pictures would be perfect.
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We made our way across town to the big square the holds the famous tower. Mom wasn't all that impressed at first, ("Oh my god, that's IT?! It's hardly even leaning!") until I explained to her that most buildings don't really lean like that without falling over. We all got our pictures with it, and had fun doing it. Here are some of the best ones.
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After pictures we browsed the venders around the square. They sold some pretty good Pisa stuff, like leaning coffee mugs, shot glasses etc, lots of boxers with the leaning tower in, well, just the right spot, and tons of cute pins and fridge magnets. I collect pins and mom fridge magnets so we had a hard time choosing. We spents some time just wandering the square and then headed back to Florence. As we got to the train station I looked up at the 'departures' board, looked down at my watch, and yelled, "RUUN!" to the ladies. As they were trailing behind me down the stairs and through the platforms, mom yelled, "How did you even read that?! Where are we going?!" the board said 17:29 to Florence and it was 17:26. It would have only been a half hour wait till the next train, but I figured I show the ladies a little travelling stress. We made it with a few minutes to spare, as the train was a couple of minutes late, and we got seats all together and everything. Hi-fives all around on the train!

Once in Florence we were pretty hungry, and thought we'd try something different for dinner, as we've eaten at the same restaurant since we got to Florence because it's such a good deal and so good. A lady handed us a menu and talked us into eating there, and they had a lot of choice, so we sat down. There was a humungous pepper grinder at our table, but we moved it to the corner and waited to be served. It probably took 5 minutes to get a menu, as the lady who got us in was still outside convincing other people to come in too. Finally we ordered and got our wine and bread, but we didn't have plates, oil, or vinegar for the bread like everyone else did. After contemplating what to do, Kristel takes a big swig of wine, gets up, grabs us plates off the server's cart, and oil and vinegar off of an empty table, and bought them back over to us. We should have tipped her!
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The waiter forgot my food, so I shared mom's delicious pasta until my asparagus risotto came. I really wanted pepper on it, but since the service wasn't very good, I figured I'd have to do it myself. There's this huge pepper grinder still sitting on our table, so I went for it. What the hell right? Mom grabbed my camera ready, so here's the shot:
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We probably looked like crazy tourists, but whatever. Our food was good, and the wine was even better, so we sucked up the service. It made things quite comical, actually!

This morning we booked out train tickets to Venice and went out looking for more markets, when it started to rain. We headed back to the hostel to get our rain coats, then we found some pizza for lunch. After walking for at least 20 minutes to find the markets, we found them closed! Lame. So we headed back to the hostel, grabbing some gelato on the way. Pretty much a write-off day but we need it; I'm exhausted today, so a little rest will do us good I think. Hopefully it stops raining here for the rest of our trip! 3 weeks monday and I'll be back home! Already!

Posted by kvandervegan 05:49 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Mayhem and Mishaps in Florence

sunny 26 °C

Last night we went around the corner and up the street to this Trattoria that our guesthouse recommended. She said we would have first and second courses with wine for 12 euro, and we’re like sold! They even refill your bread, water and wine included in the price and that’s amazing for Italy! So we head down and the place looks packed, the menu’s all in Italian (which is a good sign) but we didn’t even think that we’d fit. As we were turning to walk away, an Italian lady said, “No, no eat there. Good and cheap.” We’re like, alright and they made room and we sat in the middle of a quaint little restaurant, full of guys. The second after we sit down we look around and there are no other girls in the place, but we’re like, whatever, right? The wine boy comes zipping around giving us bread and wine, and he spoke really good English so that was fun. Next the owner comes around and speaks the menu to us, and we chose what we wanted as he went, it was so cute and personal. Mom and I explained what we couldn’t have, and he changes everything around so that we could have the proper courses too. We ordered bean soup to start and spicy macaroni pasta with salad for secondi, and wine of course! The food was excellent; the soup was to die for and we stuffed ourselves full of pasta until we literally thought we’d burst. All the guys around us were cheersing us in the air, and we ended up talking to the table behind us after we were finished eating. The 4 guys (2 older guys, a dead-on Al Pacino look alike, and Tony) were all in the military, and only Tony spoke English. Al Pacino understood what we meant when we told him who he looked like, and he was really flattered. So we’re all chatting away when the rose seller comes around (they’re all over Europe; they come into restaurants trying to sell roses to the guys to give to the girls, it’s sooo tacky) and of course they go buy us roses. We ended up getting a picture with them, and thanked the restaurant guys a lot as the food was the BEST and the service was amazing!

Did I mention we had downed a few beers yesterday, ad well as shared a bottle of wine before dinner and then had a generous ¼ litre of wine each with dinner? Lets just say we were all feeling the wine, and were really giddy when we got back to our room last night. We were chatting in the room while mom was using the washroom, and we hear this crash! I’m in my booty shorts ready for bed, and Kristel walks into the bathroom to check on my mother and just starts pissing herself laughing. Then there’s a knock on the door, and I drunkenly answer it half naked. It’s the guesthouse lady saying, “Uh, I think you are not okay? I heard a noise?” And I’m like, “Oh, no, no we’re just fine, you know, too much wine!” as I slip my pajama pants back on and close the door. I go into the bathroom, and mom and Kristel are killing themselves laughing, and moms holding the metre long, very heavy heated towel rack that she apparently took off the wall! I’m like, “WHAT is going on!” And mom can barely get the words out that she thought it was a fold out towel rack, so she thought she’d drunkenly and conveniently fold it out for us to use in the morning! Really, it was screwed into the wall, not foldable at all. The ladies are trying to fix it, and I’m like, “Hey Einsteins, how about we fix it in the morning when we’re sober?!” So I put it down and coaxed the ladies into bed. I was watching Gerard Butler interviews (don’t ask :P ) and the ladies could not stop laughing about the rack incident. I finally take my earphones out when the ladies get up to try again to re-install the towel rack. I think I just rolled my eyes and let them attempt it. But oh man, was it a funny night.

This morning we got up to minor headaches, had cereal with warm soymilk (random) and headed out to catch the train to Siena. We quickly bought our tickets from the machine, and it let me press the discounted tickets without having to give a reason (like rail pass or train card) so I was like ok, it’s all good I guess! We grab our tickets and get on the train and wait. As the train gets going and the conductor lady comes around, mom says she’s nervous about giving her the tickets because I had pressed the discount button, and I said me too a little, but we’d soon find out if they were ok. She comes around, turns our tickets over, and says we have to pay a fine because we never validated them. Now, I’ve been riding metros and trains in 14 different countries around Europe. I have learned that you must always validate your metro tickets, but I’ve never had to validate a train ticket, as that’s what they have conductors for. They come around with stamps and stamp your ticket! So she said, “OK? 5 euro each.” And I was like, whoa lady, hold on. We we never told, nor did we see any signs saying we had to validate our tickets. It also didn’t say anywhere on the ticket, or on the ticket machine, that we had to validate. She said, “Oh no, there are yellow boxes, you must validate before getting on the train, 5 euro each makes 15.” We’re like BAH! We didn’t know! I was like, but no where did it say we had to?! And she didn’t even really explain further, as she wrote us what looked like a speeding ticket and put the money directly into her personal wallet! I was pissed, and was just glad it was only 5 euro and not 50. We watched this conductor woman go down the whole rest of the train, fining every tourist on there, including the family sitting across from us, because nobody knew to validate their ticket. We were pretty shocked, and we discussed what this lady might be buying later on with her stupid fine money! SO dumb. When we arrived in Siena we saw the validating boxes, and they are these teeny little yellow boxes set up in the corners of the station! No wording on them, not even in Italian, saying you had to validate your tickets. I think I said bullshit 100 times on that train ride! Anyways, ridiculous.

Siena was ok, but fellow travelers have definitely hyped it up for me. I did have the most amazing chocolate I’ve found in Europe there, but other than that we just walked around and saw a bunch more churches and streets and squares. The outsides of the churches are much more beautiful than the inside here, so we never pay to get into them. We ended up finding a huge clothing market that was closing down, but we browsed for a bit before catching the train back to Florence. Once back, we relaxed with a bottle of wine before heading out for dinner to the same place as last night. Our wine boy was really happy to see us, and the owner made mom and my meal a little different than last night, with roasted tomatoes and spinach as the second course, and pasta as the first. Really cute. We’re halfway through our meal when guess who walks in? Al Pacino, Tony and gang from last night! Apparently they eat there every single night! We asked them to recommend a gelateria for us, and we chatted a little bit with them before heading off, telling them that we really didn’t want to go dancing in the square later on (so cute!). We dropped mom off at the hostel as she wasn’t feeling 100% and Kristel and I headed out to get gelato. We’re just about to order, when guess who shows up? Al Pacino, Tony and gang. Too funny! The gelato guy spoke better English and volunteered to be the translator, so anything Tony couldn’t translate, he did, and we had an awesome time. They even bought our ice cream. We told them we’d get home fine by ourselves, and we exchanged face books and made a date at the gelateria for tomorrow night. It’s always nice to meet the locals. ;)

Posted by kvandervegan 22:58 Archived in Italy Tagged food Comments (1)

Firenze

sunny 20 °C

So, being the idiot that I am sometimes, I forgot my railpass yesterday to get it validated and to buy the reservation for our trip to Florence this morning, so we all had to wake up extra early this morning so that I could get all that done before our trip. The ladies were asking all kinds of questions about their first train ride; they sounded like kids on their first road trip. Anyways, we made it to Florence just fine, and found our guesthouse fairly easily, minus the ladies insisting we stop for a beer with our 40 pound packs still on. Whatever. Our hostel, or guesthouse, is super cute, so the ladies were happy. We found some pizza and wine for lunch, and then just wandered around Florence for the rest of the afternoon. We found amazing things around every corner, like the Duomo, cute piazzas, gallerias, and great shopping spots.
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Tonight we're going to find pasta and more wine (the ladies just found some great stuff at the corner store) and tomorrow we're going to people watch in Siena. Fun!

Posted by kvandervegan 10:30 Archived in Italy Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

I Heart Roma

sunny 24 °C

Yesterday was a really long day, but we covered a lot of Rome so we were happy. Got up at 6:30 am to get ready, have some breakfast, and head out to the colloseum for our walking tour. It ended up being with the same young, Irish tour guide as yesterday (Jimmy) so us ladies were happy, and he has a degree in art history so he knows his stuff. We first toured around the Roman Forum, where Julius Cesar is buried and where Rome basically began (before the common era), and with Jimmy explaining everything that used to happen there it was really cool. We walked down the most famous road of all time, the one where the senators used to walk down to get into the forum, so that was pretty cool.
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After the forum we went into the colloseum, and as Jimmy had promised, avoided the 3 hour line in! There’s a secret to skipping that line, but he doesn’t want us to tell anyone so that he can keep taking his tours through it lol. The colloseum was everything I thought it would be: so old, so huge, and so cool. I loved that part of the tour, despite the gruesome uses it used to have.
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After the tour we got some more pictures inside the colloseum, and walked up the road towards the Vittoria monument, and up Via del Corso to do some shopping. We found the yummiest pizzerria, that even had vegan paninis and tons of salad stuff, and I mistakenly ordered a beer for 6 euro. We were even standing up as you pay more to sit down, but I’m in wine country so I guess that explains the price? Felt like I was back in Dublin! Anyways after eating we kept wandering down the shopping streets, eventually veering down a market street and towards the trevi fountain. On the way we found the BEST gelato place, that had like 8 different fruit sorbet’s with no milk. Mom and I each got 2 flavours, and then after we had ordered I noticed they had soy pistachio, hazlenut, and chocolate gelato! We ended up getting some on the way back from the fountain and it was amaaaaazing.
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We also stopped at a liquer store, where Kristel was trying creamed liquers of melon, pistachio, lemon, and then white chocolate, which she ended up buying. Mom and I had bread dipped in oil and lemoncelllo, which was really really good. We all bought some glass jewelry at one of the shops too; there was soo much to choose from it was all really nice stuff. The Trevi Fountain is huge and really cool, and we sat by it and finished up our gelato. There were tons of tourists around it, and it’s October! So I couldn’t imagine the people who would be here in the summer. The weather is still really hot so we’re doing good so far! We then walked up to the Spanish Steps, got some pictures, and took the metro home.
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After relaxing for a couple of hours (with our 1 litre tetra packs of wine for 89 cents!) we headed out in Ostia (where we’re staying) to grab some dinner. It was just after 7, and we couldn’t find one restaurant open until after 8, so we ended up going back to the hostel to drink some more wine and then we went out again to have the same risotto we had the first day because it was that good.

Today we got up to a beautiful day, so we had breakfast and got a few hours in at the beach across the road from our hostel. It was such a nice day, and I think we all had naps laying in the super soft Roman sand. We got ready and headed into Rome to buy our tickets to Firenze tomorrow and wander around the parts of Rome we hadn’t seen yet. We found the Pantheon, but resisted temptation to go in until our free tour at 7. We wandered around Piazza Navona, and found an AWESOME litre of wine to drink while we waited. We still had more time to kill so we found some early (delicious) dinner at a pizzeria and then headed back to the pantheon to sit, people watch, and take drunken photos (wish I could put them up! Hopefully better connection in Florence tomorrow!). Our free tour was from a different guy, Tom, from Windsor, and he was really good. The Pantheon is amazing, and the tour was short but sweet. We then stopped by the gelato place from yesterday (I tried the soy chocolate tonight) and got the metro home. We’re exhausted, but pretty sure we covered everything we wanted to here in Rome, so we’re ready to be off tomorrow! Really missing everyone at home, 4 weeks today and we’re back!
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Tomorrow we leave for Florence for 5 days, where we’ll do day trips to Siena, Pisa, and Cinque Terre!

Posted by kvandervegan 12:55 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Crete & Rome: The Bullet-Point Version!

sunny 24 °C

St__Peter_s_Basilica.jpgRoom_of_ma..Vatican.jpgSo, seeing as how I’m so far behind, this blog is going to be short and sweet! And no pictures, sorry, bad connection!

On our last day in Santorini (which was last Sunday, by the way!) we hit the beach and hung out poolside with our hostel guy Nicholas. It was fun and hot. We got literally sandblasted at the beach, and then went down to the supermarket and had our best Greek pita yet - full of good veggies and French’s mustard, I couldn’t be happier. We get to the port and had about an hour’s wait, so the three of us downed a warm litre of white wine, while Nicholas waited with us and sipped on a coke.

It was just about 4, and we hadn’t even seen the boat coming around the corner, so we made friends with 2 guys from Levenworth, Seattle, and waited with them. Spencer and Logan were brothers, Logan was on R & R from firefighting on a base in Iraq, and Spencer had just finished school. So we’re waiting around, sitting on our packs and chatting, when this woman comes up to us and asks if we’re waiting for the SuperJet, and informs us that it’s not coming and that we’re being put onto a new boat at 7. It’s just after 4 now, so we invited her and her husband to come sit on our packs and drink Mythos beer, as it was a super nice night out. It turned out really fun, but it was a long wait, so we all got pretty buzzed in the sun. Our boat comes just before 7, and we’re herded in first. Once on, this crazy Greek woman makes us all jam into one corner, then she tells us to move and put our luggage away, then she herds us back again! Mom I guess was standing up for too long as the woman grabbed her by the wrist and led her away to a different section. She turns to us and yells, “I love you!” as if she’s leaving forever it was so funny. She finally escaped the crazy lady and got to sit with us again for a 3 hour, extremely wavy boat ride. If you got up to walk around, it looked like you were hammered everyone was staggering all over the place it was really bad. But we made it and found our hostel on the other side just fine. Our hostel looked pretty sketchy at night, but we didn’t have to walk far up the road until we were in.

For our first day in Crete (Monday) we walked around and found some Starbucks, which was so good as the ladies hadn’t had real coffee for a week and I hadn’t had any soymilk for like half a month! We found some rally cool shopping streets and bought some souvenirs and jewelry. I bought a really cute silver ring, which has since broke! I was playing around with it and it snapped in half! So I’ll have to get it fixed at home.
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The restaurant guys here are really pushy, always trying to get you to come eat in there place, so we try and eat at the nice, quiet areas. There are also a lot of gypsies in Hyraklion, so the ladies got their first eal taste in them bugging us through our wine while dining al fresco. Kristal and I went and saw “Love Happens” in the theater because it was English! It was really cute, but mom didn’t feel like coming so she stayed home.

Day 2 in Crete we had planned to take the bus to Chania and look around, but when we got to the bus station the tickets were 19 euro a person, which is crazy for a public bus! Then we found out the trip was 3 an a half hours long, so it made more sense, and we didn’t want to go that far anyways in one day. We decided to go out to Knossos, an ancient settlement area, and look at some more rocks. It was ok, I walked into a pole and got a nice big bump on my shin, but it was mostly just more rocks laying around. After the bus ride we walked to the big complex where we saw the movie and had lunch, then found a mini beach and just hung out for a bit. That night we went out and found some good white wine and got a little buzzed, and then found some pita for dinner. Our last veggie pizza was really good, so we were sort of expecting the same. When we said no meat, they just threw one slice of tomato on and tons of fries and called it dinner. We were like, uh, thanks I guess! We were a little too buzzed to care I think!
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Wednesday in Crete we hopped on a bus in the morning heading to Rethymno. It’s a cute little seaside town, and on the way into town we passed a big market, so as soon as we got off we headed back towards it. It was really good; tons of fruit and veggie venders in the first half and lots of clothes and shoes in the second. The food vendors were really nice, all trying to get you to try their food. We bought oranges, peanuts, tomatoes (SO good) and bulk olives (even better!). We also bought bras for 2 euro, and they fit perfect! We were trying them on over our clothes as the sizes are different over here, but it worked out well. We then headed through the old town, finally finding mom some beer (if she doesn’t have a beer in her hand by 12:30 she starts getting antsy; it’s really cheap here and you can drink it everywhere you go) and doing a bit of shopping. While shopping we found another great, super cheap pita place that had falafel and zucchini, mmm so good. And cheap. We wandered down to the beach, and eventually found a really nice one that made us pay for the chairs (which is crap, but the ladies insisted) so we soaked up the sun before heading back to Hyraklion and going to bed early for our flight the next morning.
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Up and out the door by 4:30 yesterday morning, we were at the airport early for our 7am flight to Roma. We had easy flights, and mom and I even got a little vegan breakfast on the plane! Very cute. Our luggage took almost an hour, but we found our bus pretty easily. What we didn’t find was the ticket booth, so we missed the first bus and the second one didn’t come for almost an hour. It’s not after 12 and we got in at 10, but we finally got to our hostel practically starving and hot tired. We found some really good risotto and bruchetta at a place down the road, and then headed into Rome to plan our next couple of days, and just see some things before we passed out at home. We got off at the main terminal and saw a fountain and a big, beautiful church.

We were pretty tired from being up since 4, so we decided to head back to our hostel, grabbing pizza and wine in cartons on the way. We also booked a walking tour for the next day, which we went on today (finally up to date!) and had such a good time. It took us through the Vatican museums, pointing out things we never would have known about, and teaching us about the Sistine Chapel, and then led us outside St. Peter’s Basilica, where we went in ourselves. It was huge, and beautiful! We saw part of a service as well. They have tons of confession boxes, it was different; I didn’t think people actually still did that! Mom was telling us all the stuff she used to confess when she was little. We wandered away from the Vatican and found some spaghetti for dinner. The metro home was absolutely packed, so the ladies got to experience rush hour metro for the first time. We got off at the Colloseum for a quick look, and it was all lit up at night it was good. We’re going to do a walking tour of the Colloseum and the Roman Forum tomorrow. On the way home we got gelato and now we’re drinking wine at the hostel!

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Posted by kvandervegan 12:42 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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